Interior Officials Kick Back?
When the Washington, D.C.-based Project on Government Oversight helped win a lawsuit last summer against Mobil Oil for paying less than it owed the Treasury for drilling on federal lands, it decided to share its payment with two federal officials, giving them $350,000 each for their years of arguing that oil companies had not been contributing their fair share of drilling royalties. Since then, the Department of Interior has drafted regulations that would force oil companies to pay several billion dollars more in royalties over the next decade. But Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and his cohorts in Congress are using questions about the unusual payments from an advocacy group to the two officials as reason to delay the new rules. The DOI has said the officials played only “inconsequential” roles in drafting the rules, but the Justice Department in the meantime has opened an investigation into the propriety of the payments to the duo.